Team Abu Dhabi’s Shaun Torrente is the new World Champion after a fitting finale to a barnstorming UIM F1 H2O World Championship at the 19th Grand Prix of Sharjah on Khalid Lagoon today.
Third place was sufficient for the American to claim his maiden world title by four points, despite the fact that team-mate Erik Stark did all he could to lead the race from pole position to the chequered flag, the 20 points gained helped him to earn a UIM silver medal.
Team Amaravati’s Jonas Andersson finished in a solid second place and Finland’s Sami Selio of the Mad-Croc Baba Racing Team finished fourth with Andersson’s team-mate Erik Edin rounding off the top five. Their performances were overshadowed somewhat by the Team Abu Dhabi fever at the top of the championship standings.
After all the hype and fanfare in the build-up to the showdown, Stark, Al-Qemzi and Torrente lined up in pole, sixth and seventh on the pontoon. Stark needed a top two finish in the 44-lap race to stand any chance of claiming the title. Torrente needed to finish in front of Al-Qemzi or at least fourth if Stark was to win. Engine changes pushed Chiappe, Trask and Edin down the starting order.
The stage was set for lights-out and a thrilling finale to a pulsating season. A spanner in the potential works for Torrente was the introduction of a demarcation buoy for those sitting in P7 to P17, while the top six would head along the 530-metre straight for the commitment buoy. The touch paper had been set for on-water fireworks.
A slight headwind into the first turn didn’t help matters, but Stark and Al-Qemzi made a stunning start and managed to hold first and third through the opening turns. But a yellow flag for Sutthipan Sookbuangbon’s barrel-roll at turn one ruined the Emirati’s start and he was pushed back to sixth before the resumption.
Action resumed on lap three and Stark maintained his lead from Andersson, Al-Qemzi, Selio and Torrente, but Torrente moved passed Selio and into fourth place.
Al-Qemzi and Torrente very nearly came together on the next couple of turns (below) and lost a little real estate heading into lap six, as Stark continued to lead Andersson by 2.56 seconds. It was advantage Torrente in the title stakes as it stood. Carella overtook Selio to snatch fifth place.
Lap eight, and Stark maintained his lead over Andersson, Al-Qemzi and Torrente and extended his advantage to 4.08 seconds at one-quarter distance. Bartek Marszalek was sidelined on lap 11, but the leading six drivers held station and Stark reached lap 15 with a 2.97-second lead.
The title was still in Torrente’s hands on count back so long as he finished fourth and Al-Qemzi wasn’t able to overtake Andersson and Stark and grab the lead.
Stark’s lead grew to 4.32 seconds on lap 16, but drama unfolded when Al-Qemzi spluttered off the circuit with engine electrical issues on lap 18 and Torrente moved up to third. It strengthened the American’s grip on the world title, as long as he could stay in the top four to the chequered flag.
Stark (below) led by 4.41 seconds at halfway and the pressure eased still further on Torrente when Carella suffered technical issues of his own on the 21st lap. The four-time World Champion’s demise lifted Selio into fourth behind Stark, Andersson and Torrente.
Stark maintained a solid lead of 4.13 seconds over Andersson into lap 27, but Torrente began to ease his pace slightly to conserve the engine and stay in third place. There were no changes to the running order inside the top 10 into lap 28, although Selio began to close in on Torrente and Peter Morin was forced out of the race. Torrente needed to be careful not to fall foul of an overtaking challenge by Selio and he managed to hold a 2.04-second lead over the Finn at the end of lap 34.
Race leader Stark kept his composure and guided his DAC through the closing nervy laps to confirm a start-to-finish victory. But it wasn’t enough to claim the world title.
Torrente was happy to shadow Andersson at distance and fend off the challenges from Selio and fifth-placed Francesco Cantando. He was 1.84 seconds in front of Selio with eight laps to run and coasted to the chequered flag in third place to seal his first world title and Team Abu Dhabi’s sixth. Cantando ran out of luck five laps from the finish and his retirement lifted Erik Edin into a fine fifth place.
2018 UIM F1H2O Grand Prix of Sharjah – Results:
- Erik Stark (SWE) Team Abu Dhabi – 44 laps
- Jonas Andersson (SWE) Team Amravati – @12.27sec
- Shaun Torrente (USA) Team Abu Dhabi – @22.95sec
- Sami Selio (FIN) Mad-Croc Baba Racing Team – @25.89sec
- Erik Edin (SWE) Team Amaravati – @28.39sec
- Philippe Chiappe (FRA) CTIC F1 Shenzhen China Team – L2
- Filip Roms (FIN) Mad-Croc Baba Racing Team – L2
- Grant Trask (AUS) F1 Atlantic Team – L3
- Cédric Deguisne (FRA) Maverick F1 Team – L4
- Simone Schuft (DEU) Blaze F1 Team – L9
- Francesco Cantando (ITA) Blaze F1 Team – DNF
- Peter Morin (FRA) CTIC F1 Shenzhen China Team – DNF
- Alex Carella (ITA) Victory Team – DNF
- Thani Al-Qemzi (UAE) Team Abu Dhabi – DNF
- Marit Strømøy (NOR) Emirates Racing Team – DNF
- Bartek Marszalak (POL) Emirates Racing Team – DNF
- Sutthipan Sookbuangbon (THI) Maverick F1 Team – DNF
2018 UIM F1H2O World Championship – Final Standings:
- Shaun Torrente (UAE) Team Abu Dhabi – 89 pts
- Erik Stark (UAE) Team Abu Dhabi – 85 pts
- Thani Al-Qemzi (UAE) Team Abu Dhabi – 74 pts
- Peter Morin (FRA) CTIC F1 Shenzhen China Team – 54 pts
- Philippe Chiappe (FRA) CTIC F1 Shenzhen China Team – 42 pts
- Marit Strømøy (NOR) Emirates Racing Team – 35 pts
- Jonas Andersson (SWE) Team Sweden/Team Amravati – 29 pts
- Sami Selio (FIN) Mad-Croc Baba Racing Team – 28 pts
- Erik Edin (SWE) Team Sweden/Team Amravati – 25 pts
- Ahmed Al-Hameli (UAE) Victory Team – 18 pts
- Francesco Cantando (ITA) Blaze F1 Team – 17 pts
- Alex Carella (ITA) Victory Team – 9 pts
- Filip Roms (FIN) Mad-Croc Baba Racing Team – 9 pts
- Bartek Marszalak (POL) Emirates Racing Team – 8 pts
- Grant Trask (AUS) F1 Atlantic Team – 8 pts
- Cédric Deguisne (FRA) Maverick F1 Team – 7 pts
- Duarte Benavente (PRT) F1 Atlantic Team – 5 pts
- Simone Schuft (DEU) Blaze F1 Team – 3 pts
- Sutthipan Sookbuangbon (THI) Maverick F1 Team – 1 pt